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IPA Taste-Off California vs Oregon, Baby! 

Step by step directions to taste and judge your chosen IPA.

click to enlarge ipas.jpg
It’s time to settle the score. Oregon’s IPAs are better than California’s, we’re pretty sure. But to prove it, you’re going to need to get scientific. You’re going to need a bunch of friends, a bunch of beers and our handy judging guide below to help you seal the deal in Oregon’s favor.

History of IPA

India Pale Ales are versions of more traditional English Pale Ales that were hopped to the nth degree to survive trips across the world in the 1800s, primarily to India. The beer is our mainstay in the Northwest, maybe in part because we have so many varieties of quality hops in large quantities, but also because we like big open heavenly things around here. Long live IPA.

How to taste:

• Pour all beers into clean, clear glasses- do not drink from the bottle because you don’t want the aromas to be trapped in there.

• Drink water before you begin and between tastings to keep your pallet fresh.

• Do not taste beer with food, except the blandest of crackers, which should be used to cleanse your pallet between beers.

• Taste from light to dark.

How to judge:

Give each beer a number.

Have one person pour the beers into clear cups with that beer's number clearly announced.

Put that number on a sheet of paper and use the following to help you judge the brews.

Appearance: You can tell a lot about the health of a beer by the way it looks. American IPAs should have a head that sticks around and is a little off-white. Color ranges from warm amber to light copper. Will usually be clear but a bit hazy is OK, particularly with dry-hopped versions.

Mouthfeel: Beers can feel silky, full, thick and chewy, or thin and fizzy in the mouth. Your IPA should be relatively smooth with a medium bodied feel. A little bit of alcohol warming is ok, but it shouldn’t be astringent or drying.

Aroma: This makes a pretty big difference in how much you’ll love this beer given all the hops involved. Beers can smell fruity, piney, dank, nutty, grainy, malty, or spicey. A good IPA will exude floral, earthy, grassy or citrusy smells, particularly grapefruit, lemon, mandarin or even lime aromas. The underlying beer should have a slightly caramel or toasty malt smell.

Taste: Note that the first sip will be different than the last and you should notice the changes as you drink. A good IPA will have an assertive hops flavor. Maltiness should not dominate, but should be noticeable, biscuit-like and a bit toasty. Bitterness should linger but not be harsh.

Try these IPAs:


Green Flash

Big Daddy

Firestone Walker Union Jack

Stone Ruination IPA


Oakshire Watershed IPA

India Pelican Ale

Rogue Brutal IPA

Laurelwood Workhorse IPA

The Perfect IPA

By Brett Thomas

The perfect India Pale Ale is a sunny summer afternoon in a pint. When you pour your IPA into a glass the colors should range on a spectrum from pale golden to absolutely no darker than copper. The general effect should be a bright-looking beer, perhaps with a modest haze from dry hopping.

Carbonation levels are medium in the perfect IPA and there should be about an inch of hop oil generated meringue-like head floating on top. The smells that waft up to your nose are distinctly American hop varieties like Chinook, Simcoe and Columbus. These make up a complex hops profile of resinous evergreen, dank tropical fruit, citrus rinds and fresh cut flowers. Malt sweetness is there, too, but only in a supporting role, and never competing with the hops. The alcohol note is mild to medium.  In general, the beer is clean and dry, with a lingering bitterness and a moderate mineral profile from the water used in the brewing process. By the time your glass is empty, you’ll see it’s ringed with lacing—the lingering evidence of each sunny sip taken.

Brett Thomas is the lead brewer at Silver Moon Brewing Company where he works his ass off making beer for lovely people of Bend. His friends refer to him as hop-crazy.

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